Epic V8 Double review - Next Level Kayaking
OK we admit we're a little late to the doubles craze in Tasmania, but hey...you try freighting long skis down here safely and let us know how you go :-) After many years coaching our paddlers in single skis, and using these to coach from ourselves, our groups have recently started to develop to the point where new methods are called for. The first of these was an IRB, allowing us to cover different paddler abilities & speeds a lot better. Using the IRB also gives us more confidence when we're out in windy conditions or a little way offshore. Despite the increased safety net we still had a few paddlers who needed extra encouragement to broaden their horizons, and sometimes there's no better way than "walking the walk" with them in the same boat!
From technique & timing correction, through to the feeling of speed (a better position in the training pack or the ability to catch more runs - often hard to achieve when you're still developing your experience), to the reassurance provided by a paddling partner in rough conditions, we started to think that double skis would solve a few problems for us, and help our paddlers break through some barriers. I talked with Davey from Epic Australia about the possibility of testing the V8 and V10 Double during a recent trip to Sydney. We loaded up both skis and headed for the beach, testing the boats in and out of the surf at Dee Why, and along the coastline towards Freshwater and back. We started with the V10 Double and it felt good, with a very high running speed. The boat felt well planted in the water, but still manoeuvrable enough to throw around, chase rebounds and sometimes take decisive (ahem...evasive) action in the shorebreak when required! I sat in the back with Davey in the front and we soon had it motoring. I had to adapt my longer, slower tempo to Davey's rhythm but that was alright as it made me focus on the catch and release parts of my stroke, and paddle more aerobically, which has always been a work in progress for me!
We then swapped boats, setting up the V8 Double and taking turns in the front and back seats. Straightaway I realised that this ski was a lot of fun, very stable & forgiving, and more manoeuvrable than the longer V10 Double. We took off on a few steeper waves and leant back to lift the nose (which it responded well too), the wave deflector Davey had fitted to the front coping with most of the incoming water. The nose of the V8 Double is short & wide which gives it an amazing agility. Despite putting the boat in a series of awkward positions, making a few late take-offs and bail-outs in the surf line, the V8 Double was easy to drain and remount. When I was in the back I got a lot from following the cues from Davey in the front, while also being able to see the oncoming waves as well. I felt occupying the back seat really developed my ability to be instinctive, often the front seat paddler will have clearer vision and can respond to the energy in the water a fraction of a second earlier...the back seat paddler must be on top of this and try to match the movements of the blade, shoulders, hips and paddle angle for best results.
We loaded a new V8 Double Performance on our trailer for the trip back to Tassie, and since we arrived home it has been the most popular ski in our demo and hire fleet. We are using it for most of our sessions, putting an up-and-coming paddler in the back and a more experienced paddler (or coach) in the front. It is definitely breaking down boundaries for some of our tentative paddlers, we are able to get them out in rough conditions and have a lot of fun! One of the big things I emphasise when there's a paddler in with me is the timing, that it doesn't matter if their stroke is hard or soft...just keep the timing. This encourages the back seat paddler to put force through the blade in the catch and mid-sections of the stroke, and to relax out the back for a clean release. The other thing to start doing straight away for the back seat paddler is to match up the paddle angle to the front seat, increasing the height of the top hand and making sure the blade enters the water close to the side of the boat. After a while, with some additional tweaking, the back seat paddler's timing and efficiency is noticeably improved and the boat starts to run very well. Often an inexperienced paddler will lean the boat in one direction, or sit very tense in the boat so that you can feel it "quiver". We work on keeping that paddler's weight centred, so they can stack their shoulders over their hips, learn to relax, and and loosen up their their hips like shock absorbers. These are skills that they can transfer back to their single craft straightaway. We see experienced/inexperienced V8 Double combinations in the top 5 boats of our fastest training group, and with Rozzie and I in the boat we can hang with our very fastest paddlers. The V8 Double will also leave a good single for dead in the right downwind conditions, being able to pull over and run onto faster-moving waves.
Roz and I have decided to compete in mixed doubles this season, as a bit of a break from single skis and to learn from each other to improve our strengths & weaknesses in a super fun way! After spending a dozen or so paddles during the last month in the V8 Double Performance we have ordered a nice light V10 Double Ultra which is due to arrive in 2-3 weeks! We're both really looking forward to the new challenge ahead, and stoked to see the potential of the doubles for improving our paddlers. Probably even more exciting is the potential for doubles to bring more people into the sport, as most of us know somebody who has never paddled before who could get a "taster" by heading out with a paddler who knows what they are doing. Friends, family, kids and less confident paddlers will all benefit from a dose of double therapy!
In summary the Epic V8 Double has quickly become a popular addition to our fleet, and an invaluable coaching tool for our developing paddlers. You can find more information on the Epic V8 Double here, and the Epic V10 Double here. There is a good article on Epic's international website here.